Michael E. Elsner

Michael Elsner uses the U.S. civil justice system to seek social change and improved protection of Americans at home and abroad. He litigates complex civil matters on behalf of people and businesses victimized by commercial malfeasance, violations of human rights, inadequate security measures and state-sponsored terrorism, managing cross-border litigation and intricate investigations of infringement and abuse of human rights, multi-layered financial transactions and due diligence.


Michael's understanding of the complex legal challenges of international matters is critical to litigating cases involving human rights and financial dealings. He uses legal mechanisms to track illicit finances, and his investigations through the maze of international banking and financial regulations continue to uncover violations that have allowed money laundering and terrorist financing. He is building upon legal theories and case precedents to represent plaintiffs harmed by financial crimes and actions and hold the global institutions and organizations accountable.

Michael is a lead plaintiffs' counsel in Linde et al. v. Arab Bank, a suit brought on behalf of victims of terrorist attacks in Israel. In September 2014, a jury found Jordan-based Arab Bank plc liable for financing terrorist activity, including funneling financial support to top Hamas leaders and to the families of suicide bombers. This verdict marked the first time a financial institution has been held liable for financing terrorism. Michael is co-lead counsel in a parallel suit for non-U.S. citizens, Jesner v. Arab Bank, which is currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court will decide whether a corporation is immune from suits under the Alien Tort Statute for violations of customary international law. As one of the leading members of the firm’s anti-terrorism and human rights practice, Michael also leads the worldwide investigation for liability evidence in the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism civil action against al Qaeda's alleged financiers and supporters. In this capacity, Michael meets with U.S. and foreign intelligence officers, witnesses, and informants, who have already helped him gather more than two million pages of documents in numerous languages identifying the activities of al Qaeda and its financiers. He is a member of the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee for this multidistrict litigation filed on behalf of more than 6,500 families and survivors of the 9/11 attacks. He also served as a member of the Plaintiffs' Committee in In re September 11th Litigation, a suit brought against the airline industry alleging that it failed to detect and prevent the attacks. 

Michael's work with financial transaction litigation includes commercial, securities fraud and shareholder derivative cases such as his extensive work on behalf of domestic and foreign investors in In re Vivendi Universal, S.A. Securities Litigation.  

Working with South African human rights lawyer Richard Spoor, Michael is also leading the firm in its role as consultants in an effort to take on leading global gold producers and seek justice for tens of thousands of exploited gold mine workers who are suffering from silicosis. Few class actions have been brought in South Africa, and none have been filed for sick workers. If approved as a class, the suit would generate an unprecedented means of recovery for the country and ensure meaningful access to justice for the indigent and rural workers who are dying from this entirely preventable yet incurable disease.

Michael began his career with the Manville Personal Injury Trust and then practiced complex civil litigation in New York in the areas of toxic torts, security, personal injury, bankruptcy, and whistleblower protections prior to joining Motley Rice attorneys in 2002.

Sharing his experience and insight as a lecturer and consultant, Michael has discussed anti-terrorism and human rights litigation on several national and international news outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, NPR and the BBC, as well as international anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism industry conferences. 

*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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  • J.D., University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, 1997
  • B.A., John Carroll University, 1993


  • American Association for Justice
  • American Bar Association
  • New York Bar Association
  • South Carolina Bar Association, International Law Committee
  • Virginia Bar Association
  • National Crime Victims Bar Association
  • Public Justice Foundation

Licensed In

  • New York
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia

Admitted to Practice Before

  • U.S District Court for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York


Opioid Litigation

The growing opioid epidemic crosses virtually all demographics, and with more than half a million related deaths recorded in the U.S. since 2015, the crisis has officially been declared a public health emergency.

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